401 Ocean Avenue Rehabilitation Project
Robert D. Farquhar, Architect, 1910
Santa Monica, California
Building History and Description
The two-story house at 401 Ocean Avenue was constructed at the corner of Ocean and Georgina Avenues in 1910 for Henry Weyse, a local attorney. The residence was the first home built on Ocean Avenue north of Montana Avenue following subdivision of the Palisades Tract in 1905 and annexation by Santa Monica in 1906. The home was designed by local architect Robert D. Farquhar.
Farquhar was one of the most notable architects living in Santa Monica at the beginning of the 20th century. He was born in Brooklyn in 1872, attended Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and then moved to Santa Monica in 1905. He married Marion Jones, one of the daughters of Santa Monica founder and later Senator John P. Jones.
Other buildings designed by Farquhar included his own house on Georgina Avenue, a Roy Jones residence and the Gorham house on Adelaide Drive along with the California Club in downtown Los Angeles, Clark Memorial Library and numerous large homes in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and Pasadena.
The house at 401 Ocean Avenue was designed in a style now identified as Colonial Revival with Craftsman features. The residence has a formal central entry facing Ocean Avenue with a gabled shingle roof. Two story masonry chimneys bookend the front portion of the house Two wings on the back of the residence and set in slightly from the front portion extend to the west. The residence’s exterior is clad in wood shingles with double hung wood windows, most with sub-divided upper lites.
A large pergola on the north was not included in the original designation but appears to be from the same era with crafted wood beams. Many changes and remodels have occurred to the house. Sometime before WWII a building was added across the rear of the house at the ground floor, closing in a small court. A large bay window was added to the upstairs bedroom on the west with one of the windows used as access to the rooftop of the added one-story building. During World War II many of these larger homes, including this one, served as boarding houses for soldiers.
The house eventually was separated into two units, upper and lower. The interior grand stair was removed and the opening to the floor above was covered. A new entry was established on the north side from Georgina Avenue that accessed a new stair that cut through part of the original rear court to the upper floor where a kitchen was added. The upper front bay windows were replaced by large view windows and the lower open porch bay was enclosed with a sliding glass door and modified windows.
Charles Morris purchased the home in 1952 and his extended family occupied the property until recently. The house remained subdivided with separate entries although a door was added to the stair at the lower court so that the family could circulate within the residence between the two floors. Windows at either end of the front portion of the house were covered by cabinets and built-in bookcases.
Shutters were added to the exterior to cover these blocked openings. The natural gray wood shingles deteriorated and rotted without apparent treatment and eventually were painted green.
The site contained other structures as well as the pergola along Georgina Avenue. A small temporary building was located on the southeast portion of the property in the 1930s and a two-story structure was constructed in 1941 at the northeast corner of the site that remained until 1992 although excluded from the landmark designation. That building was demolished and a new accessory building with garage was constructed in its place. New gates with brick pillars were added at either end of the drive.
In 1990 the Morris Family was notified that the property at 401 Ocean Avenue had been identified as a potential historic resource and recorded in the City of Santa Monica’s Historic Resource Inventory. The Department of Recreation and Parks (DPR) inventory form for the residence noted:
“It is significant architecturally as an example of the oeuvre of R. D. Farquhar, the most regionally prominent architect in residence in Santa Monica at the time and a son-in-law of the founder of the city. Historically, the house is one of the earliest to be built in the landmark Palisades Tract, and was furthermore, associated with local attorney Henry G. Weyse for well over twenty-five years.”
– 410 Ocean Avenue
Moreover, the house is an important visual feature of the Ocean Avenue streetscape and is one of the only remaining houses dating from the original period of Ocean Avenue’s prominence in the Santa Monica community.
The owners asked the City about designation of the property as a historic landmark and supported that effort including naming of the house as the Henry Weyse/Charles Morris House to recognize both the original and current longstanding owners. The residence was designated as the 20th City of Santa Monica Historic Landmark in September 1990.
The historic significance of the building in the Landmark Commission’s designation was linked to three criteria: The residence exemplifies elements of the cultural social economic political or architectural history of the City as one of the earliest homes built in the Palisades Tract and is representative of the homes built for the City’s prominent residents and helped to establish the tract’s reputation as one of Santa Monica’s elite neighborhoods.
The residence also embodies distinguishing architectural characteristics in that the house is an excellent example of Craftsman style with a mix of Colonial Revival details. The house is also significant as the work of noted architect Robert D. Farquhar, an early resident of Santa Monica and renowned for his design of large scale homes for prominent families in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Pasadena.
Although landmark designations typically include the entire parcel, the original designation only included the front residence. The current owner submitted an application and the Landmarks Commission approved and designated the parcel in August 2017.
The proposed project is a rehabilitation of the existing historic two-story residence and construction of a new four-level building at the east end of the property that contains ground floor parking with support spaces and three floors of three-bedroom units above.
The existing 1910 residence has undergone many remodels and has deteriorated significantly from substantial deferred maintenance under its prior ownership. The exterior materials have been reviewed and need to be rehabilitated and in cases replaced with matching materials including wood shingle siding and asphaltic shingle roof. Original windows will be retained and rehabilitated, and non-original windows modified for compatibility with the original design.
Railings and masonry chimneys will be reconstructed to match original for safety. All new electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems will be installed along with structural upgrades. The partial basement will be cleaned and refurbished for mechanical and other ancillary spaces. The house will be separated into two side by side units each with access to outdoor garden space. On the southeast corner of the second floor, a room will be added. The walls and roof of addition will be set in slightly from the original wing for differentiation but will otherwise reflect the original design. The added space is also set back behind the sloping one-story roof at the eastern end of the residence.
An additional window partially concealed within the front porch arcade will be added symmetrically and with similar detailing to the existing living room windows to add daylight and view to the space.
The site landscape maintains original elements including the steps and walkway up to the central entry from Ocean Avenue and the Pergola and entry along Georgina Avenue and significant trees flanking the house. The remaining areas of ground cover will maintain a clear view of the residence.
To complement the extensive work on the existing historic residence, new construction at the back of the site will include three residential units above a ground floor level with parking and support spaces. The new building, separated from the house by a landscaped courtyard, is in an area where previous structures have been located and its exterior design will complement the historic building without mimicking historic styles.
The project provides units to take advantage of the unique site with ocean views and the building is adjacent to the service alley for parking access and services. Every unit will have outdoor space including rooftop gardens. Special consideration is given to views and building massing to utilize this unique resource and to be compatible to the existing historic resource as well as the surrounding neighbors. All work on the residence and site is to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
The importance of historic resources has been recognized by federal, state, and local governments through programs and legislation that identify and recognize buildings, structures, object, landscapes and districts that possess historic significance.
On September 13, 1990, the Landmarks Commission of the City of Santa Monica designated the residence at 401 Ocean Avenue as a City of Santa Monica Historical Landmark. The entire parcel was subsequently nominated for inclusion in the designation by the current owners, which the Landmarks Commission promptly designated as a Landmark Parcel. A rehabilitation project has been proposed for the site that includes repair, rehabilitation and a small addition on the back as well as new multi-family residential structure at the rear of the site.
Work on the residence as well as at the site is to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties including the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The California Historical Building Code is also applicable to the project.
A Mills Act application for the property was approved by the City of Santa Monica and forwarded to the County of Los Angeles. The Mills Act submittal includes a condition assessment report on character-defining features of the residence by a qualified historic architect and provides approaches to treatments.
The Mills Act Program has provided an initial detailed assessment for the project team and framework for the project to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. Mills Act work will also be reviewed by the City of Santa Monica staff for appropriate treatments under the Standards.
Overall Work Process
The project team is led by qualified historic preservation architects.
Both Barbara Kaplan and David Kaplan, principal architects at Kaplan Chen Kaplan, meet the qualifications of the National Park Service for Historic Architect.
The project team will work together to highlight issues that may affect building features. Early discussion of issues will help maintain the project schedule while finding solutions to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
Per proposed Planning Commission Condition of Approval, a qualified preservation architect will monitor the construction phase of the project to ensure that the proposed scope of work is performed in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
The rehabilitation of the existing residence at 401 Ocean Avenue and the construction of a new building at the east end of the property meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties, specifically the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
The project team includes qualified historic preservation architects and a process that will be established through construction to maintain conformance to the Standards. Deferred maintenance on the exterior has reached a critical point for the integrity of the building. The proposed project provides repair of the exterior enclosure to help prevent long term damage. The rehabilitation will provide an improved public appearance for the historic residence, representative of prominent homes along the oceanfront and a special site in the neighborhood.
Seismic and structural improvements including chimney repairs, safer building systems such as new electrical service, and mechanical systems to better condition the building will also help ensure an extended life for the residence.
The rehabilitation of the original residence includes retention of original exterior features and materials except for those materials that have been damaged beyond repair or elements that have been poorly constructed and require reconstruction for safety. An assessment of exterior materials has been prepared. Previous non-compatible changes to windows will be slightly modified for compatibility with the original building.
A small addition on the back of the upper floor and improvements at the rear roof deck are compatible with the original residence and do not impact the character-defining features of the residence. A front rail adjusted for current safety requirements and a window added within the porch do not impact the overall appearance or integrity of the resource. Mature trees that flank the residence will be maintained.
The new building at the back of the property is separated from the original house by a landscaped courtyard and is setback five feet further from Georgina Avenue than previous structures in that location, behind the setback of the front of the existing house along Georgina Avenue. The surrounding neighborhood along Ocean Avenue and First Court on the east contains other numerous multi-floor buildings equal and, in some cases, taller than the proposed new structure so there will be a natural fit within these unique ocean-facing properties. The new building will not be visible over the roof of the historic residence from the public sidewalk along Ocean Avenue.
A concrete structure is being used to minimize floor heights. The tallest element is the elevator shaft that has been located away from Georgina Avenue entry into the core of the building and designed as a transparent enclosure. The proposed horizontal wood siding on the new building is compatible with the wood shingles of the original residence and the copper cladding at the ground floor reflects the red brick base of the historic house.
The overall project provides for the rehabilitation and systems upgrade of a significant yet badly deteriorated historic landmark for the City.
The proposed new building will not be visible over the residence from Ocean Avenue and large trees flanking the original residence frame the view of the landmark structure and provide a discreet transition between old and new. The primary three criteria for designation of the property are related to the view from Ocean Avenue of a last remaining prominent residence along that street, the building’s representation of the area’s early reputation as an elite neighborhood, and that the building was designed by the noted local architect, Robert Farquhar.
These key aspects of the historic designation will not be impacted but rather enhanced with the proposed project at 401 Ocean Avenue.
401 Ocean Avenue and surround area — aerial view.
Los Angeles County Assessor Map.
Original tract map.
401 Ocean Avenue — aerial.
View of historic residence from Ocean Avenue.
Front entry elevation from Ocean Avenue. Previously modified front windows will be adjusted for compatibility. New building on the east will not be visible from this view.